Understanding An Infant’s Visual Development

Visiting Their Fascinating World

The world of young ones is fascinating, animated and accented with fantasies – more than our world. At a young age, their perception is quite different. They visualize the world differently and they make sense of it in a way which appears sensible to them. Deciphering this information, they then learn from it. According to Andrew Meltzoff, the co-director at UW Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences:

“Babies are exquisitely careful people-watchers and they’re primed to learn from others and their surroundings.”

With sight forming to be such an important element of authority in establishing an infant’s perception, understanding your baby’s vision becomes all too essential for parents.

  • Peeking into their fascinating world helps parents to understand how their young infant sees the world and aid them in their development.
  • Visiting the animated world of infants help parents to monitor visual milestones.
  • Seeing the world through the eyes of their baby’s help parents in identifying signs of developmental concerns and mitigate the risks appropriately and promptly.

Ready to witness the world through those young eyes?

An Infant’s Visual Development

Understanding An Infants Visual Development

Early Stages – From Birth to 3 months

At the time of birth, a baby can only perceive the world as black and white with shades of grey. The vision is blurry and the perception of depth is underdeveloped, making the world look flat. Infants can only see and focus on objects which are at a maximum distance of 20 to 30 cm and their attention span does not extend beyond few seconds. As the days’ progress, the visual senses develop and a baby starts to perceive colors (roughly not accurately) after first 2-3 weeks.  Important to note that during the first weeks, the baby’s visual system is not developed enough to track a moving object.

By the time a baby reaches the age of 3 months:

  • The hand-eye coordination improves
  • The attention span prolongs beyond ten seconds
  • Young infants are now able to visually track moving objects with their eyes independent of the motion of head. However, the visual sphere will be limited at this age.
  • Light sensitivity increases

These are some activities which can help babies to achieve their visual development milestones for the first three months:

  • Parents should alternate sides while feeding the young ones to stimulate visual development in both eyes.
  • Parents should decorate the baby cots with colors of orange, red, blue, yellow and black and white.
  • Provide the babies with bold pattern toys.
  • Maintain close face to face interaction.

Middle Stages – From 4 Months to the Age of 6 months

Once the baby grows older than 3 months; the speed, distance and accuracy of visual tracking improves. The young one is now able to explore and comprehend the three-dimensional world in a better way as compared to the early stages. Reflections fascinate them and the perception of depth significantly improves. The movement of eyes becomes more independent to the movement of head.

By the time a baby reaches the age of 6 months:

  • They exhibit better understanding of position, direction and speed.
  • They start focusing on different things present in the room, even if these things are not within their reach.
  • Their color vision fully develops.
  • Both the eyes work in coordination

These are some activities which can help babies to achieve their visual development milestones by the time they are six months old:

  • Parents should start reading to them from picture books.
  • Parents should make the toys accessible to their babies which can help to stimulate their vision.
  • Parents should organize play activities which stresses on the development of side-to-side visual tracking. Make sure the movements are not too rapid and they are harmonious with the ability of the baby to follow them.
  • Parents should also take their child for their first eye exam.

Preparing for Toddlerhood – From 7 months to the age of 12 months

During this age, babies can coordinate their vision with their body movements like crawling, standing and grasping. They can judge distances more accurately than ever before and execute an action in the direction they are intending to.

By the time a baby reaches the age of 12 months:

  • They should be able to spot partially hidden objects.
  • They should be able to notice small particles like bread crumbs and pieces of food.
  • They should start showing sustained interest and recognize people and some pictures.

These are some activities which can help babies to achieve their visual development milestones by the time they are 12 months old:

  • Parents can play catch and throw with their young ones.
  • Parents can hide objects and ask their children to find them.
  • Parents can introduce their children to new objects along with their names to improve their visual memory.

Although every child develops at their own pace, there can be complications at times which can inhibit the visual development of the young ones and lead to failure in the accomplishment of the milestones discussed above.

Vision Related Problems During Infancy

Understanding An Infants Visual Development

Some visual development concerns are as follows:

  • Eyes do not work in pair and remain misaligned or crossed after six months of age.
  • Structural abnormalities of eye which may include bulging, drooping eye lids and persistent redness in one or both the eyes.
  • Extreme sensitivity to light.

As parents, what you can do to ensure that the visual development of your child is seamless and free of any complications?

The First Eye Exam

To ensure that the visual development of your child is progressing seamlessly without any complications, an eye exam from a qualified optometrist is essential. During the exam, the eye doctor will conduct nonverbal assessment to evaluate visual acuity in both the eyes, the coordination between the two eyes and a general health assessment.   Different countries define different ages for the first eye exam.

In USA

The American Optometric Association recommends that the first eye exam should be conducted at the age of six months.

In Canada

The Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends that the first eye exam should be conducted between the age of six months and nine months.

In Ireland

The eyes are recommended to be assessed after seventy-two hours of birth, proceeded with a follow up during first two months and a later assessment when the child is around one year old.

It’s a whole different world out there and as a parent it is your responsibility to be the guide of the young raider.

© Teresa Boardman, Nanny Options 2017.


Browse other Parenting Guide articles from Nanny Options
or keep up to date with us on Facebook.